ARTHROSIS


First, osteoarthrosis involves the structures directly related to the joint (‘arthr-’): the cartilage, synovial membrane and synovial fluid. Later, it also affects the bone adjacent to the joint cartilage (‘osteo-’).
Osteoarthritis gradually destroys and distorts the cartilage and bone, and the joint can no longer perform its original function (movement and absorption of impacts when jumping). The movements become painful and limited, and then pain begins to be there even at rest.
One can relieve symptoms of arthrosis and restrict its progression, but it is not possible to cure it. The goal would be to give the animal everyday comfort to a reasonable extent and to restrict the progression of the disease.


WHY?

 

Most often, osteoarthrosis results from unusual strain on the cartilage (excess weight, traumas, excessive loads). Inflammation begins in the joint and first destroys the cartilage, then the surrounding structures. As the time goes by, the bone is distorted, and pain becomes permanent and keeps increasing in intensity.


WHAT ANIMALS ARE AFFECTED?

 

This disease affects all kinds of animals. Among domestic carnivores, dogs and cats are affected most of all because of their longer lifespan and level of activity. Some factors predispose to arthrosis, such as overweight, vigorous or inappropriate physical activity, previous traumas of joints or bones, advanced age and the breed.


WHAT ARE THE SOLUTIONS?

 

Taking care of arthrosis includes eliminating inflammation (anti-inflammatory agents), reducing the destruction of cartilage (chondroprotectors) and, if possible, stimulating its repair. The animal’s everyday comfort must also be maintained by eliminating pain (analgesia) when it is present. Solutions must be chosen according to their long-term use and must have limited adverse effects. If arthrosis results from a defect of conformation (hip or elbow dysplasia, patellar dislocation, etc.) or from a joint trauma (fracture, rupture of a cruciate ligament, etc.), surgery may be indicated.
To restrict its progression, care must be taken of arthrosis early and, if possible, as early as the first crisis.

At first, the disease may progress without any obvious signs. Hygienic measures should be taken, in particular for predisposed animals:

Avoid excessive weight gain in order to restrict the joint overload,

Have the animal do activities according to its age and size,

Support the joint function by prioritising certain food products or dietary supplements.

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT ARTHROSIS

MANIFESTATION OF THE DISEASE

Arthrosis progresses in several phases

INITIAL PHASE

When the first attack occurs, the osteoarthritic process has already begun to progress, without the animal showing any apparent signs. At this stage, joint inflammation gets out of hand and can manifest itself in several ways.

A dog will thus be able to:

  • Limping, especially after lying down for a long time
  • Take longer to lie down or get up
  • Hesitate to jump in or out of the car or on the couch, or even refuse altogether
  • Hesitate to go up or down stairs or sidewalks
  • Be less enthusiastic while walking
  • Fear petting, brushing and playing
  • Waning while making certain movements

A cat will tend to:

  • No longer groom yourself (the hair becomes matted and clumps together)
  • Needing outside the litter box (difficulty entering, getting into position, or aiming)
  • Staying hidden longer than usual
  • Be aggressive when petting or carrying him
  • No longer able to jump on furniture, beds or sofas
  • Sleep less, or on the contrary, more than before
  • Take longer to go to bed or get up
  • Be less active in general

During this crisis, cartilage degradation is worsened.

After a few days of treatment prescribed by your veterinarian, the attack resolves, and the animal seems to be doing better, but the osteoarthritic process continues to evolve silently.

It is recommended to implement preventive and curative measures from the first painful osteoarthritic attack to preserve joint capital as much as possible: ask your veterinarian for advice.

PROGRESSIVE PHASE

Initially occasional, painful attacks gain frequency and intensity. The crises come closer together, last longer, and are more severe. Little by little, the pain sets in permanently, always punctuated by attacks during which the pain is more marked.

ADVANCED PHASE

The more advanced the osteoarthritis, the more intense the permanent pain, to the point of becoming disabling. Travel becomes more difficult and rarer. Muscles melt, making movement even more difficult.

At first, arthrosis progresses without any symptoms, but the cartilage still degenerates.

As arthrosis progresses, the cartilage degenerates further, and the pain grows more frequent and intense and finally becomes permanent and debilitating.

ARTHROTIC INFLAMMATION

Inflammation in the joint can begin for various reasons (defects of conformation, joint traumas, infection, overweight). At first, it only affects the cartilage, which produces certain substances that cause inflammation. They reduce the repair capacity of the cartilage, while its degeneration speeds up.
This is internal degeneration of the cartilage. It becomes brittle, loses its ability to absorb impacts and gradually shrinks.
Synovial fluid, which lubricates the joint and nourishes the cartilage, is also altered. This exacerbates the degeneration of the cartilage and affects the smoothness of joint movements.
The joint is surrounded by a capsule, the synovial membrane, containing the synovial fluid. When inflammation spreads to the synovial membrane, pain sets in.
The synovial membrane also produces substances that cause the degeneration of the cartilage.
This is external degeneration of the cartilage. Because of internal and external degradation of the cartilage, its cartilage fragments are discharged into the joint. This leads to the emergence of the self-perpetuating vicious circle and causes pain at the joint level.
Joint inflammation progresses over time and will eventually spread to the bone adjacent to the joint cartilage. As the cartilage increasingly disappears, the bone loses its strength and is distorted under pressure.

At first, arthrosis does not cause any pain. This condition progresses for some time before pain sets in when the cartilage is already worn down due to its internal and external degeneration. If nothing is done to restrict the progression of the disease, the entire joint is affected, pain becomes stronger and more frequent, and the animal’s everyday comfort is reduced.
This is why it is important to slow down this progress as early as the first symptoms and throughout the course of arthrosis.

WHAT ANIMALS ARE AFFECTED?

Every animal may be affected. Some are more predisposed, depending on several criteria :

BREED

Certain breeds of dogs or cats are predisposed to joint malformations, such as hip dysplasia or elbow dysplasia, or even patella dislocation for example.

In dogs, the breeds most affected are: the German Shepherd, the Labrador Retriever, the Golden Retriever, the Flat-Coated Retriever, the Rottweiler, the Boerbull, the Bulldog, the Akita Inu, the Chow-chow, the Cocker Spaniel , the Brittany Spaniel, the Yorkshire, the Pomeranian, the Lhasa Apso, the Chihuahua, the Cavalier King Charles, the Boston Terrier, the Bichon Frize and even the Poodle.

In cats, the Maine Coon, Persian and Birman breeds are the most affected.

OVERWEIGHT

Being overweight is associated with an excess of fat cells. Excess weight is the consequence of an excessive or unbalanced food intake, insufficient energy expenditure in relation to the quantity of energy ingested, or hormonal dysfunction. Fat cells produce substances responsible for inflammation, which are found particularly in the joints.

PHYSICAL ACTIVITY

An animal practicing intense physical activity, unsuitable for its weight or age, and potentially traumatic for the joints, will have a greater risk of being affected by osteoarthritis. This is particularly the case for sporting dogs (cani-cross, agility), ring dogs, or simply very active dogs who jump a lot.

PREVIOUS EVENTS

Joint or bone trauma such as fracture, rupture of the cranial cruciate ligament, sprain, are responsible – temporarily or in the long term – for changes in the support and conformation of one or more joints. The abnormal stresses suffered by the joint can cause joint inflammation.

AGE

Older animals are more affected by osteoarthritis because their joints have, over the course of their lives, been subjected to numerous microtraumas or pro-inflammatory phenomena. However, in dogs it is considered that 20% of individuals aged one year or more are affected1

Dogs and cats of some breeds are at greater risk of developing arthrosis. The same is true for animals that are overweight, do inappropriate physical activity, are subject to joint traumas or are senior. Such animals will benefit from preventive measures to delay the onset of the disease.

MANAGEMENT OF ARTHROSIS

Once the arthrotic process has set in, there is currently no means to reverse it. Therefore, it is essential not to wait for a recurrence and act.

PRESERVATION OF CARTILAGE AND POTENTIAL OF THE JOINT

Because the process of degradation of joint structures begins with the cartilage, it is crucial to protect it. An effective fight against inflammation and against internal and external degradation of cartilage is therefore necessary. The prevention of osteoarthritic attacks, and the peak of inflammation linked to them, makes it possible to maintain the animal’s comfort and preserve joint capital.

INFLAMMATION

Responsible for the destruction of cartilage, pain, and destruction of bone in contact with articular cartilage.

To counter inflammation, there are several solutions. The use of anti-inflammatory molecules generally (injection, tablets, oral solutions, etc.) or locally (intra-articular injections) is the most frequently used method. Functional rehabilitation techniques are also available, such as physiotherapy or laser or shock wave treatments.

DESTRUCTION OF CARTILAGE

Certain medications, foods and dietary supplements directly target the substances responsible for cartilage destruction and neutralize them. They can also stimulate other substances, which enable cartilage repair.

PAIN

The pain is caused by inflammation. However, it may happen that fighting inflammation is no longer enough to make the pain disappear. Analgesic treatments (painkillers) can then be instituted, particularly in the most advanced stages of osteoarthritis.

SURGERY

In certain cases, surgery may be indicated to alleviate severely disabling arthritis.

TOLERANCE TO TREATMENTS

Since arthrosis is a chronic disease, lifelong care is indicated most often. Therefore, it is recommended to choose solutions appropriate for each animal, preferably ones without toxicity. If proper care is taken, the animal’s everyday comfort can be maintained for a very long time.

TALK TO YOUR VETERINARIAN

It is not possible to cure an animal affected with arthrosis. Still, the progression of the disease can be slowed down in order to keep its everyday life free of pain for as long as possible. This requires that one takes care of arthrosis in advance. This is more effective if implemented as early as its first symptoms and encompasses fighting inflammation and pain as well as protecting the cartilage from internal and external degeneration. Since arthrosis is a chronic disease, lifelong care is indicated most often. Therefore, it is recommended to choose solutions appropriate for each animal, preferably ones without toxicity. If proper care is taken, the animal’s everyday comfort can be maintained for a very long time.